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Facebook posts
stated on November 15, 2021 in a post:
Says Raz Simone “conquered” part of Seattle, handed out guns to form a paramilitary force that murdered three people, robbed the locals and walked away without being questioned.
true barely-true
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, left, talks with activist Raz Simone, right front, and others near a plywood-covered and closed Seattle police precinct behind them on June 9, 2020. (AP) Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, left, talks with activist Raz Simone, right front, and others near a plywood-covered and closed Seattle police precinct behind them on June 9, 2020. (AP)

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, left, talks with activist Raz Simone, right front, and others near a plywood-covered and closed Seattle police precinct behind them on June 9, 2020. (AP)

Monique Curet
By Monique Curet November 18, 2021

Facebook post overstates rapper’s role in Seattle’s police-free protest zone

If Your Time is short

No single person “conquered” part of Seattle. A police-free protest zone emerged in the Capitol Hill neighborhood after police boarded up a precinct and left, allowing protesters to freely occupy the area for more than three weeks.

Raz Simone was shown on video giving out a gun, but we did not find evidence linking that gun to fatal shootings that occurred later, or evidence that a paramilitary force carried out the shootings. Two people died in the shootings, not three.

We did not find evidence that Simone robbed locals.

Last year’s Capitol Hill Organized Protest in Seattle was not as organized as its name implied.

Alternately called the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest and the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, the protest area that became known as CHOP did not have a clear structure or leader, making it easy for social media claims to fill in the gaps with falsehoods.

One such viral Facebook post has a photo of a man with the words, "Remember me? I conquered part of Seattle, handed out guns to form a paramilitary force that murdered three people including a child, robbed the locals, and I walked away without being questioned." The man pictured is not identified in the post, but it is rapper Raz Simone, who is mentioned by name in the comments.

The post concludes with, "Remember me when they criticize Kyle Rittenhouse," referring to the Wisconsin teenager who was on trial for shooting three people, two of them fatally, during 2020 protests in Kenosha, Wis.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The claim oversimplifies what happened in Seattle’s police-free protest zone and overstates Simone’s role there. No single person "conquered" the area known as CHOP; it emerged after police vacated a police precinct and allowed protesters free rein for more than three weeks. And while Simone was shown on video giving out a gun, we did not find evidence linking that gun to fatal shootings that occurred later.

We also did not find evidence that a paramilitary force carried out the two fatal shootings, one of which was between two people who had been feuding since 2019. Finally, we did not find evidence that Simone robbed locals.

A peaceful turn, then a violent turn

The multi-block zone known as CHOP was established in the aftermath of nationwide protests that followed the death of George Floyd. The Seattle protests centered on the police department’s East Precinct, which became a kind of battleground between police — who erected barricades and used tear gas, flashbangs and pepper spray on the crowds — and protesters, who wore riot gear and threw projectiles at officers.

On June 8, 2020, police boarded up the precinct and left the area, and protesters used the police barriers to create the CHOP zone. Protestors had several demands, including defunding police and reinvesting funds in community programs.

Initially, the area seemed peaceful, with a community garden, food booths and documentary screenings. On June 20, though, one man was killed in a shooting just outside the CHOP zone, and police said the crowd denied them entry to the area. Then on June 29, two teenagers were shot, one fatally, which  prompted the city to shut down CHOP a few days later, The Seattle Times reported.

The role of Simone in CHOP depended on who was describing it. CNN referred to him as the "de facto" leader of the area, but other media outlets were less definitive. A PolitiFact check of a different claim called him a regular figure at the protests, The Seattle Times called him "a frequent presence at CHOP," and a KOMO TV reporter said, "Some have told me (he) is one of the leaders in what many said is a ‘leaderless’ group of protesters."

Conservative national media outlets, meanwhile, referred to him as a warlord.

The claim says Simone handed out guns to form a paramilitary force that murdered three people, but there’s little evidence for that description of events.

Snopes checked a claim that Simone gave a semi-automatic weapon to a fellow protester and rated it true. In a video posted June 9, 2020, on Simone’s Facebook page, he can be seen at the 2:08 mark removing a gun from the trunk of his Tesla and giving it to someone he does not appear to know.

Some of the protesters served as armed guards within CHOP, and Washington state allows the open carry of guns.

It’s not clear whether Simone’s transfer of the gun was legal. However, we did not find evidence to support the claim that the gun Simone gave out was linked to shootings that occured in and near CHOP, or that a paramilitary force carried out the shootings. No news reports corroborate any of those details, and police have not said that.

The first shooting, on June 20, involved two people who had a history of fighting. Marcel Long was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Horace Anderson. Footage of a 2019 fight between them was posted on YouTube, The Seattle Times reported.

The second shooting happened on June 29, and no arrests have been made or suspects named publicly. But no news reports indicate that a paramilitary was suspected of being involved.

There are also no news reports about Simone robbing locals, as the claim says, and he has not been arrested or charged with any crimes related to CHOP.

This year, however, two women accused Simone of abuse and coercion, with one saying Simone forced her to strip for money that he took and the other accusing him of pushing her into prostitution. He has not been charged with a crime in connection with those allegations, but one of the women sought and was granted a court order of protection against him.

Our ruling 

A Facebook post says Raz Simone "conquered" part of Seattle, handed out guns to form a paramilitary force that murdered three people, robbed the locals and walked away without being questioned.

Simone did not "conquer" the area known as CHOP. It was established after police vacated a police precinct and allowed protesters free rein.

Simone was shown on video giving out a gun, but neither news reports nor police have linked that gun to fatal shootings that occurred later.

Two people were fatally shot in or near CHOP, not three. One of the fatal shootings was between people who had been feuding since 2019. No arrests have been made in the other shooting, but no news reports indicate that a paramilitary was suspected of being involved.

Simone has not been arrested or charged with robbery or any other crimes related to CHOP.

We rate this claim Mostly False. 

 

Our Sources

CNN, "Leader of Seattle's 'autonomous zone' says many protesters are leaving," June 25, 2020

CNN, "Shooting in Seattle protest zone leaves one dead. Police say 'violent crowd' denied them entry," June 21, 2020

Facebook video, June 9, 2020

Facebook post, Nov. 15, 2021

King5, "25 arrested during overnight protests after Seattle police dismantle ‘CHOP,’" July 1, 2020

PolitiFact, "No, the man in this photo isn’t Raz Simone," July 8, 2020 

KOMO News, "Police make allegations of intimidation, extortion inside Capitol Hill's Autonomous Zone," June 11, 2021

KUOW, "2 women accuse Seattle hip-hop artist Raz Simone of abuse, coercion," Jan. 11, 2021

KUOW, "Looking back at Seattle's CHOP, one year later," June 7, 2021

New York Post, "Rapper Raz Simone accused of being ‘warlord’ in Seattle’s police-free CHAZ," June 12, 2020

NPR, "Day 2 of jury deliberation in the Rittenhouse trial ends again without a verdict," Nov. 17, 2021

Seattlepi.com, "How CHAZ became CHOP: Seattle's police-free zone explained," June 15, 2020

The Seattle Times, "After early morning shooting in CHOP, occupied area returns to its new normal," June 20, 2021

The Seattle Times, "‘Everybody down!’: What happened at the shooting that killed a teenager and led to CHOP’s shutdown," July 8, 2020

The Seattle TImes, "Suspected gunman in Seattle CHOP zone homicide arrested more than a year later," July 12, 2021

Snopes, "Does This Video Show Raz Simone Handing Out Guns in Seattle’s CHOP?" June 23, 2020

YourTango, "Who Is Raz Simone? Meet The Seattle Activist And Rapper Accused Of Being A 'Warlord,’" June 12, 2020
 

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Facebook post overstates rapper’s role in Seattle’s police-free protest zone

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